True Story: ThaiGov to open ‘Fake News Center’

Thailand’s government announced plans to open a dedicated “Fake News Center,” something it says will tackle the epidemic of false information online while critics say will be another tool to quash dissent.

A religious ceremony was held at the Government House this morning, after which the state’s newly appointed spokeswoman announced that prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and the Defense Ministry have ordered the tech ministry to oversee the center set to open later this year. 

On top of clearing up false information and misunderstanding by providing information using colloquial, easy-to-understand language, the PM also wants the center to publicize accurate news about the government and its work, according to Naruemon Pinyosinwat, who was a Palang Pracharath Party MP named government spokeswoman this week.

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During a press conference on Tuesday, meanwhile, the digital economy minister said that the center will focus on relaying disaster warnings and news that could affect the safety and livelihood and citizens such as health information, fraud and illegal trading. 

“Today, how citizens consume news has significantly changed from the past. People can now instantly access information online through different channels. The ministry will set up a committee consisting of representatives from various agencies within a week in order to conduct research and study different laws in order to create the center,” said minister Puttipong Punnakan adding that he’s hoping the center will begin operating in the next three months. 

Writing in The Diplomat, International Relations professor Janjira Sombatpoonsiri at Thammasat University wrote last month that the so-called fight against fake news was really “continuation of cyber warfare the military regime has persistently waged against challengers of its propaganda.”

She noted the state aggressive use of various agencies and laws to go after its critics online in the name of fighting crime and protecting national security, such as a military cyber center used to suppress undesirable information, and the Computer Crime Act’s use to criminally prosecute people for uploading “distorted” information.

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